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Parashat VaEra 5784 — 01/13/2024

Parashat VaEra 5784 — 01/13/2024

Beginning with Bereishit 5781 (17 October 2020) we embarked on a new format. We will be considering Rambam’s (Maimonides’) great philosophical work Moreh Nevukim (Guide for the Perplexed) in the light of the knowledge of Vedic Science as expounded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The individual essays will therefore not necessarily have anything to do with the weekly Torah portion, although certainly there will be plenty of references to the Torah, the rest of the Bible, and to the Rabbinic literature. For Bereishit we described the project. The next four parshiyyot, Noach through Chayei Sarah, laid out a foundational understanding of Vedic Science, to the degree I am capable of doing so. Beginning with Toledot we started examining Moreh Nevukim.

Shemot 6:2-9:35

Having discussed accidents and essence and their applicability when we are discussing Gd, Rambam goes on to use these concepts to further explore the non-corporeality of Gd:

The reasons that led those who believe in the existence of attributes belonging to the Creator to this belief are akin to those that led those who believe in the doctrine of His corporeality to that belief. For he who believes in this doctrine was not led to it by intellectual apprehension; he merely followed the external sense of the texts of the Scriptures. This is also the case with regard to the attributes. For inasmuch as the books of the prophets and the revealed books existed, which predicated attributive qualifications of Him, may He be exalted, these were taken in their literal sense; and He was believed to possess attributes.

Rambam is here cycling back to what appears to be the main thrust of the entire treatise, namely a demonstration that Gd is unitary, non-composite and non-corporeal. The reason this needs to be emphasized repeatedly is that the surface level of understanding of the Bible appears to contradict this assertion – we are constantly reading about Gd’s Hands, Fingers, Feet, Voice, Eyes, Ears, etc., and we constantly read of Gd’s using these “body parts” to perform various actions in the created world. Rambam of course tells us that the true meaning of Scripture is not to be found on the surface level; we must rather approach the truth by means of intellectual speculation, which means applying the rules of logic to philosophical premises to derive an understanding of the phenomenon under investigation. In particular, we have statements in the Bible that imply that Gd is in fact composite and/or corporeal, and others that imply the opposite. Something has to give, and for Rambam that something must be anything non-unitary about Gd. Any Scriptural verse to the contrary must be explained according to some other system, but not the surface level of truth.

Rambam continues to indicate how people can be misled on the issue of Gd’s unitary nature:

The people in question have, as it were, divested Gd of corporeality but not of the modes of corporeality, namely, the accidents – I mean the aptitudes of the soul, all of which are qualities. For with regard to every attribute that the believer in attributes considers to be essential in respect to Gd, may He be exalted, you will find that the notion of it is that of a quality, even if these people do not state it clearly; for they in fact liken the attribute in question to what they meet with in the various states of all bodies endowed with an animal soul. Of all this it is said: The Torah speaketh in the language of the sons of man.

In other words, people fool themselves. They may claim that they believe that Gd is non-corporeal, but they make other statements that are based implicitly on the notion that Gd is corporeal. This is of course a logical fallacy, but it not an obvious one, especially since Scripture uses anthropomorphic language. What Rambam is aiming for is an understanding of Gd as something non-composite, which is virtually incomprehensible from waking state. Whether and to what extent Rambam experienced the non-composite nature of the base of all reality is beyond my ability to discern, but even a glimpse can alter one’s whole pattern of thought.

Rambam goes on to give an example of something which is unified but can act in different ways:

Now there need not be a diversity in the notions subsisting in an agent because of the diversity of his various actions. Of this I shall give you an instance taken from things that are to be found with us – I mean an example of the fact that though an agent is one, diverse actions may proceed from him, even if he does not possess will and all the more if he acts through will. An instance of this is fire: it melts some things, makes others hard, cooks and burns, bleaches and blackens. Thus if some man would predicate of fire that it is that which bleaches and blackens, which burns and cooks, which makes hard and which melts, he would say the truth. Accordingly he who does not know the nature of fire thinks that there subsist in it six diverse notions, by means of one of which it blackens, whereas it bleaches by means of another, cooks by means of a third, burns by means of a fourth, melts by means of a fifth, and makes hard by means of a sixth – all these actions being opposed to one another, for the meaning of any one of them is different from that of any other. However, he who knows the nature of fire, knows that it performs all these actions by virtue of one active quality, namely, heat.

The substance of the argument here is that fire has basically one quality, namely heat, and the action that it performs is dependent not on its qualities per se, but on the qualities of the object that it’s interacting with. In other words, different things react differently to heat based on their own qualities, and not so much on the quality of heat itself. When we take this idea over to Gd and His interaction with the world. The Rabbis use the term midah k’neged midah or “measure for measure” to describe the way Gd deals with us. Thus the Midrash (Bamidbar Rabba, Parashat Naso) tells us that because Samson sinned with his eyes (e.g. ogled Delilah) he was punished through his eyes (the Philistines blinded him when Delilah cut his hair and robbed him of his strength). On the positive side, because Avraham brought bread and water to the “men” who came to visit him, the Israelites were rewarded when Gd gave them “bread” (manna) and water (the miraculous well) in the desert during the Exodus. In a sense, Gd merely mirrors back to us the quality of our actions and it is up to us to learn the lessons.

We will continue with this discussion next week Gd willing.


Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parashat Va’eira

“Va’eira” means “appeared.” Gd answers Moses’ complaint that Pharaoh has not listened to his message from Gd: let my people go. Gd tells Moses that He is appearing to Moses in Full Strength to deliver the promise He made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that He will make them a great nation.

Exodus 6:2
“Gd spoke to Moses and He said to him, “I Am the Lrd.”

Exodus 6:31
I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob with [the Name] Almighty Gd but [with] My name YHWH, I did not become known to them.”

As “Elohim” Gd speaks to Moses. He tells him He is “YudHeWawHe.” He then tells Moses that he appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as “EL ShaDaI but as “YudHeWawHe” He did not become known by them (Rashi’s commentary)

Assuming this is so, we’ll tentatively look at YHWH as describing four different levels through which Gd, Totality, Appears within HimSelf, within Gd. These levels range from Maximum Abstraction to Maximum Concreteness — the four worlds of Kabbalah: Beriyah, Atzilut, Yetzirah and Asiyah; from this point of view Gd is telling Moses that He is giving him the whole range (manifest, at least) of existence and this should give Moses confidence that although Pharoah and the Children of Israel have not listened to Moses so far, they WILL listen because now Gd is giving him Total Support so Moses should do as Gd commands – tell Pharoah to free Gd’s people.

There seems to be a hierarchy through which Gd is recognized by humans and it seems that neither Abraham, Isaac nor Jacob recognized the Full Wholeness within which the Hierarchy exists – they did not experience complete Oneness, despite Torah telling us that Abraham was “given every blessing.” Something seems to have been left out of their awareness but that seems to be given to Moses – at least, Gd is presenting Gd to Moses from all levels of Hierarchy, and from the Wholeness within which they are increasingly “manifest” expressions.

In the rest of the parshah, Gd tells Moses that He will bring about 10 plagues through Moses and Aaron, hardening Pharoah’s heart each time so that Pharoah, who has denied Gd as One, will come to recognize that Gd is One, within whom all the Egyptian deities are but small expressions.

We might look at the physiological symbolism of Gd, Moses, Pharoah, Egypt and Promised Land from many angles. Dr.Tony Nader, whose books on Human Physiology and Ramayan in Human Physiology are familiar to many Beth Shalom congregants, presents a model which we might adapt to Torah for those people, places, things and events for which I have as yet found no Kabbalistic physiological representation.

For example, Gd would be the Total Physiology but also at every level of physiology He would be the Totality but especially the Central Governing Aspect. Canaan, the Promised Land, would correspond to a healthy physiology; Egypt would correspond to a stressed physiology. Pharoah particularly would correspond to a stressor of the whole physiology.

Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburg in his book “Body, Mind and Soul”: Kabbalah on Human Physiology, Disease and Healing says that all disease results from a lack of gratitude. From this angle, the slavery in Egypt resulted from our ancestors’ losing the ability to be aware of Gd as the source of all goodness. The return to freedom results from returning to recognition of Gd as the source of all and to increasingly live our life with a desire to attune to Him in gratitude — not as a mood but as the natural reality which occurs as we respect others, are kind to them, grateful to them, and through our respect for them, respect Gd, Gd’s Kindness and are grateful to Gd.

Torah study – listening, reciting, thinking about – in English but especially in Hebrew is a good tool to bring us into alignment with Gd and naturally to good health, good relations with others.

Prayer, especially the prayers of our siddur which generally do not ask Gd for help but praise Gd for His Qualities, beyond our present ability to know, but within the range of our ability to Know, through living a good life.

I continue to be very encouraged with the great friendliness, love and joy that I experience in so much of our Fairfield residents and very strongly in our Beth Shalom Congregation. I am very confident that the spiritual exile, the illness of our planet, is ending and that we are participating in ending it and I am confident that many of us are coming very close to Gd – no plagues needed!

Baruch HaShem